Step Up in Redlands welcomes its first formerly homeless residents – San Bernardino Sun

Hours before she stood outside the robin’s egg blue door trimmed in black, she was in an orange grove, piling her belongings into a shopping cart.

Now, everything she once needed to live among the groves that hopscotch Redlands was in the parking lot of the former Good Nite Inn, waiting to find a new home.

The key fob gave her some trouble at the door, but that was quickly sorted out.

“It smells new,” she said, giggling, covering her smile with her hands, stepping inside the room and taking it all in.

A bed with clean sheets. A shower with running water. A color TV. Refrigerator. Table. Chairs.


A step up

Finding a place to rent on a fixed income of $700 a month is next to impossible, Teresa Souter learned. That’s how the 65-year-old Redlands woman found herself living on the streets, most recently in a smaller orange grove between the 10 Freeway and the Arrow rail line, she said.

But this week, Souter and some 40-plus formerly homeless residents got the keys to their own apartments, each a studio in a converted motel that will be managed by Step Up, a social services nonprofit that works with the city of Redlands and other municipalities to provide housing and more for residents in need.

“I’d probably be out there on the streets” if Step Up hadn’t got involved, Souter said. “They’re trying to help a lot of people. The population has exploded.”

Redlands, a city known for its picturesque tree-lined neighborhoods and small-town charm, this week opened the 98-unit Step Up in Redlands, a supportive housing complex for homeless residents.

Chris Boatman, assistant city manager, said the project will have an immediate impact. In January 2022, the city was home to more than 180 people without permanent shelter, according to a canvass of the homeless population. When the annual point-in-time homeless count takes place on Jan. 26, Boatman said, the city hopes to see a dramatic decrease in the number of residents living on the streets or in temporary shelters.

“We want the community to know we helped get at least 150 people off the street, and that’s a big deal,” said Albert Rivera, program manager for Step Up.

More than housing

The opening of a permanent housing solution for homeless individuals became a top goal for Redlands officials in 2021, Boatman said. But officials realized shelter was just a first step in addressing the issue.

“The goal, obviously, is to make as many of (the city’s homeless residents) as independent as possible,” Boatman said. That’s why the city didn’t stop at rehabilitating what had been a problematic motel property with a history of nuisance complaints.

In partnership with the city and backed by $30 million in state funding, developer Shangri-La Industries and Step Up transformed the former Good Nite Inn on Industrial Park Avenue into a housing complex with a property manager who lives on-site and case managers who work with residents to pursue educational goals, improve their income, and develop or brush up on life skills.

“A lot of time, people have a hard time being back indoors,” Rivera said. Case managers help reintegrate Step Up residents into structured living, he said, setting them up for success in other areas.

Jonathan Ranker, who had been staying at a local shelter before moving-in day at Step Up in Redlands, said it had been 10 years or more since he last had a place to call his own.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” he said of the move from a shelter to a studio apartment that he will share with his girlfriend and their dog. “It’s hard to believe. Everybody says they’re gonna help but not too many people do. I’ve heard that a million times.”

Establishing trust with chronically homeless individuals is a challenge, Rivera said, but key to making the complex a community.

“The hope and goal is the community sees value in what they have and ownership,” he said.

‘Welcome home’

According to city officials, 75 of the Step Up units passed inspection and were ready for occupancy by Thursday, Jan. 12. About 40 units were inhabited by one to two people each. Full occupancy is expected within the month, officials said.

Step Up outreach workers worked with the homeless community for months to determine who met eligibility requirements. To qualify for placement, chronically homeless individuals or those literally without shelter must earn less than 30% of the area median income, which for one person is a maximum of $18,500 annually and $21,150 annually for two people.

Residents pay a maximum 30% of their income in rent, according to David Rabindranath, the city’s homeless solutions coordinator. Those with no income pay nothing, he said, and the site accepts federal housing vouchers.

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